Learn how to choose the right type of manicure

There was once the only way to do your nails: you used regular lacquer. Today, manicure options are endless. There are many techniques to achieve every kind of nail goal. You want long-lasting, high-shine nails? Soft gel is your best bet. Do you want to give your nails more strength and smoothen them? A solid choice is hard gel. Do you want a little more length? You should try sculpted nails. These are only a few popular types of manicures. Learn everything you need to know about the various types of manicures.

Regular Lacquer

Regular lacquer manicures can be thought of as your every-day at-home or salon manicure. These can be done with regular nail polishes, such as Olive & June’s Nail Polish ($9) and Gucci’s Glossy Nail Polish ($30).

Brittney Boyce, a famous nail artist and founder of Nails of LA, says that professional nail technicians will clean your cuticles and file your nails. You can use regular nail polish to create nail art designs, but you don’t need a thick coat of color. She says that the polish will dry in 20-30 minutes.

Boyce advises against nail soaks, even though they were common before regular lacquer manicures. She explains that soaking your nails causes your nail bed to expand. It crackles after you apply polish to it. Your nails shrink back down to their original size. This results in a shorter wear time.

Who is it for?

Regular manicures are great for people who prefer to do their nails at-home, need a quick (and cheaper) salon appointment, or want to remove the nail polish quickly at home.

Average Cost

From $20 to $60 Boyce states that nail art will be more expensive. Some nail salons also offer additional hand massages, paraffin waxes and other add-ons that can be more expensive.

A DIY regular manicure is much cheaper. It’s not difficult to get your nails and tools done yourself. You can then use them as many times as you like. We recommend the Olive & June Mani System ($88+) includes six long-wear nail varnishes, a topcoat, the brand’s iconic Poppy tool (which makes it easier than ever to paint your nails on both hands), a nail polish remover, nail clippers and buffing tools, as well as a nail file, touch-up brush, and cuticle serum.

How long it lasts

Boyce claims that a properly applied regular lacquer manicure can last up to two weeks if you don’t soak them beforehand. Olive & June nail polish lasts for more than two days without chipping–it is one-of-a kind.

How to Get It Out

Regular lacquer is easy to remove. You can simply dip your finger in a nail polish remover container or soak a cottonball with acetone, and then swipe the lacquer away.

Soft Gel

Soft gel manicures are the best option if you’re afraid of one chip in your nail polish. “Soft gel is our classic gel polish–for example, Shellac is a soft gel polish from CND,” celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec says. It’s applied by brushing it on. There are three coats: a base coat and a color. The top coat is cured under a lamp.

Who is it for?

Soft gel nails are great for people who want a manicure that lasts for two weeks and is easy to maintain. Kandalec warns that you have better options if your goal is to add strength. “Soft gel polish does not add strength. It is just color,” she said.

Average Cost

$25-50 Nail art can increase the price, and is often charged per nail.

How long it lasts

It usually lasts around two weeks. It could last up to two weeks if you have a highly-rated and trained manicurist.

How to Get It Out

Gel polish is often criticized for being difficult to remove. However, soft gel is easy to clean. Kandalec states that gel polish is porous and can be soaked with acetone or foil.

Tips for Soft Gels with Full Coverage

These nails are perfect for creating more intricate nail art styles. Kandalec states that although Apres was the first to introduce them, many other brands now make great soft gel tips. Think about a tip that has been glued on (before acrylic or gel is applied): These are made from ABS plastic which is virgin plastic. Soft gel tips are gel tips which are adhered to your natural nail with more gel. The entire nail is covered in gel. The gel will cover your entire nail, from the tip to the tip, and not just the ends.

Who is it for?

Soft gel tips can be used by anyone. However, they are especially useful for people who want to do the latest nail art. Kandalec says that they can be made in flat or curved shapes depending on whether someone has a higher or a lower apex. They can also be adjusted to your nail shape.

Average Cost

$85+. Nail art will increase the price.

How long it lasts

Soft gel nails last about three weeks before they need to be replaced or removed. Kandalec says, “I do a fill with my soft gel tips and then they just grow out.”

How to Get It Out

Soft gel tips can be easily removed with the same methods as soft gel. Acetone and foil are used. It is best to first file the tips as thinly as possible, as layers upon layers of soft gel are used in creating them. You should not file too much, as it can cause damage to your nails.

Hard Gel

Hard gel is thicker than soft gel. Kandalec said that it looks almost like honey. Kandalec says it looks like honey. It is important to bring hand sunscreen to your mani appointment.

Who is it for?

Because it is thicker than normal, hard gel is great for strengthening nails or smoothening out ridges.

Average Cost

$50-$100. Kandalec states that where your mani falls within or outside this range will depend on where you are and what nail art you choose.

How long it lasts

Hard gel nails last longer than soft gel nails. They should last for at least three weeks, but can sometimes last up to a whole month. You might want to have them re-done if they start to show signs of natural growth.

How to Get It Out

It is important to file off hard gel because it isn’t porous. Kandalec says, “That sounds scary but it’s not because we are not professionals. We know what we’re doing and when to stop.”

Fun Fact: Kandalec anticipates Acrygel (another type of hardgel) to be extremely popular in the U.S. She shares an example of Acrygel in action. It comes in either a tub or a pot. You will need to mix a slip liquid (usually 91 to 99 percent isopropyl alcohol) and mold the gel onto a form. Although you can overlay the product on top of a tip, most often it is done on a form. Acrygel is extremely durable and very tough.” She says it’s popular in Russia and Ukraine right now and will explode in the U.S.

Acrylic

Acrylic is a mixture of monomer and polymer liquids that are mixed together. When applied to nails, the formula sets on its own and forms the nail. Kandalec states that acrylic is referred to as liquid and powder by nail professionals and acrylic consumers. Kandalec claims that the final result looks like hard gel. She explains that gel is a different chemical and requires UV light to cure. Gel can be played with for as long as you like until the light finally comes in to cure. Acrylic will cure the gel immediately, and it can cure 95 percent in 3 minutes, and 100 percent in 24 hours.

Who is it for?

Kandalec states that acrylics work best for people who love really long nails. Think of the classic idea behind fake nails. Kandalec says acrylic is a durable enhancement. Acrylic is also great for creating length. This makes it a good choice for people who love dramatic and/or intricate nail art.

Average Cost

From $50 to $95+ It all depends on where your live, which salon you visit, and what add-on services are chosen.

How long it lasts

Acrylic nails should last for two to three weeks.

How to Get It Out

Acetone is the best solution to remove acrylic nails. Although it takes longer than soft gel soaking, this is the best way to keep your natural nails intact. Kandalec also suggests that you file them. To get the most product off, use a coarse 100grit file. Next, finish the job with a fine 400-600grit file.

Dip Powder (also known as SNS)

Dip powder is a type acrylic but it’s often considered its own category. “SNS is actually an actual brand of dip powder. Kandalec explains that SNS is not a brand but a brand. Kleenex is a brand for tissues. “Dip powder nails have layers of acrylic powder and resin. The finger is either dipped (hopefully it is not as it is not sanitary in a nail shop) or sprinkled with it to make it more sanitary. The nail technician will usually have a small tray that they can place on the table and then dispose of it. The resin is layered onto the nail, then filed and smoothed.

Who is it for?

Kandalec states that dip powder is great for short nails because it doesn’t add length. Dip powder is durable and lasts a long time, making it a great choice for those who use their hands often.

Average Cost

$35 to $50.

How long it lasts

Dip powder nails last for up to a month. This makes them very popular with busy people who don’t have time for frequent touch-ups or redos.

How to Get It Out

Similar to gel nails, you can file down the top layer SNS and then soak in Acetone until the remaining color pushes away.

Sculpted nails

The sculpted nail, which is a type of gel extensions, builds off your natural nails using a sculpting tool. Boyce explains that gel extensions can be done with a builder gel such as Orly’s Builder In a Bottle. It’s an Oligomer, which means that the monomer and polymer have been mixed. Instead of mixing products, it comes in a convenient bottle that is easy to use and self-leveling. This means the technician doesn’t need to file the top to shape the product well. After it has cured, you can remove the form and apply another layer of builder to shape the nail.

Boyce says that it is easy to adjust the length of the gel and the unique positioning adapts to the shape of the nail, making it look natural. It’s hard gel-like, but flexible enough to be used on real nails. This means it isn’t susceptible to cracking, breaking, brittleness or damaging.

Who is it for?

Anyone who has a natural tip to their nails. Kandalec states that this manicure is not suitable for those with very short nails because the forms must be placed underneath the nail to shape the upper nail.

Average Cost

Because of the nature of the process, sculpted nail art is one of the most expensive options at $100+.

How long it lasts

The longevity of the products used by manicurists can affect how long the nails are sculpted.

How to Get It Out

Like regular gel polishes, sculpted nails can be removed using an electric filing and then an acetone soak.

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